The area outside the runway teems with visitors waiting for the doors to be thrown open. When they swarm in there is a moment of collective surprise, as they take in the setup.
The ramp has embroidery machines placed along the sides. Karigars sit at them, creating fine surfacing detailing on fabric. You can walk up to them; touch, feel and interact with the handiwork of the craftsmen, and appease your curiosity of what goes in the making of a Rimzim Dadu ensemble.
Dadu, the orchestrator of this unique fashion installation, is a petite person you can easily miss in the crowd. Her personal style is the understated kind, casual even. It extends to her 2016 Autumn/Winter collection – “simple dresses that you can zip up and be done with,” she says. The silhouettes are uncomplicated, the collection very approachable, but look closer and you’ll know what sets her creations apart.
Born in a family of garment exporters in Delhi, Dadu’s favourite hobby as a kid was to dash to the garment factory in the basement of their house upon returning from school. Growing up, she accompanied her father all over the world for international trade shows. They’d also visit little-known boutiques and offbeat flea markets. Fashion designing was thus, a natural progression for her.
Since debuting on the ramp in 2007, Dadu has gained recognition for creating her own textiles and transforming the character of fabrics. She says, “I’m not a cut-and-sew designer. I can never pick fabric off the shelf and make something out of it.”
She now intends to, “in my own small way”, push the boundaries of fashion, which she says “is a very non-transparent industry”, where everybody wants to keep their techniques and artisans secret. “I wanted my show to be an anti-thesis to fashion.” Dadu thinks it’s unfair that the artisans who work day in and day out behind every collection are left out of the picture at the end. Which is why, at the recent Amazon India Fashion Week in Delhi, Dadu relocated her karigars, their tools and machines from the studio to the show space, thus creating a live installation in the process.
Rajesh Bharadwaj has been working as a karigar in the industry for 12 years, since he moved to Delhi from Lucknow. “I have been backstage doing fittings at every fashion week since it started, but this was the first time I was in the front, showcasing what we do, right on the ramp!” he says.
Dadu’s contemporary Anand Bhushan says that many designers have talked about credibility to artisans before. “But Rimzim managed to bring them to the forefront beautifully with her runway showcase, and not just with a special mention or by putting up photographs of craftsmen at work,” he says.
It’s In The Details
A grey maxi skirt gleams, changing shade from off-white to black as its shape catches the light. On closer inspection, its surface reveals hair-fine thin metallic wires embroidered all over.
“These are actually plastic yarns treated to look metallic, and then sewn on fabric,” says Dadu. She also experiments with tie-dye on faux leather, which is then cut into fine specks and hand-sewn back on fabric. “We disintegrate a material and put it back together. The effect that we get is like marble and rust.” Then there’s the 3D applique technique, where karigars cut out fine motifs of birds, leaves, flowers and painstakingly stitch each piece back on fabric.
It’s this surface detailing and texturing that sets Dadu’s collection apart. “There is a certain contradiction in her garments – with the simplicity of their silhouettes and the complexity of their textures,” says veteran designer Arjun Saluja. “And that really shines through in her collection; the outcome is beautiful.”
As Coco Chanel once said, “Those who create are rare.”
From HT Brunch, April 17, 2016
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